David posted a superb comment to my last blog post, and I think my reply is too long to post as a comment... So I'm doing a straight-up blog post as response...
His comment was on my last blog post... Direct link to read at the bottom here:
Fantastic response here and for sure will be on the docket for all OBRC members (who are attending this weekend) to review as we vote and debate any potential changes... Many thanks for spending the time to write! I didn't find any part of it confrontational, and I hope you don't find that at all with my reply (just trying to chat and swap opinions/ideas etc)
I'll do my best to add my personal views to many of your points now:
I like your main question - how do we remain relevant? I subscribe to the theory that the OBRC does not function without the support of the birding community. We need to stay in a positive light to get that support (and on the same level - relevant) to continue to function well... I will say that "listers" are one of the most active groups when seeing rare birds, and I think over the years the OBRC has tried to appeal to listers (eg,/ get your name published etc) because they're the people who get out and see the most rarities by nature. (eg,/ if you're trying to buy chickens, you should start with farmers).
I think the other "group" that the OBRC has generally appealed to are the "obsessive". There is no clear cut category of birders obviously, but there are those of us out there (I include myself in this group) that are stupidly obsessive with looking at birds, to the point where I was birding 6 days a week for many years growing up. Eventually I reached a point where I had "observed" so many birds, that the only way I was going to see something "new" was to study the OBRC records and I enjoyed it so much (and eventually gravitated towards it) to the point where I have the fun of being chair.
Unfortunately (in my opinion) this all boils down to losing sight of the original goals. How does the OBRC remain relevant? Well the true goal is to SAVE these bird records, of the most unusual kinds of vagrants, to allow people in the future to have access to them (regardless of why they want them, at least they have not been lost). And what better place to save old stuff than a Museum? Everything we collect (should) go there and stand the test of time. To me, this is how we stay “relevant”. Ebird may crash someday or lose funding, and that database would/could be lost. The Museum approach of documenting evidence may be the most sure fire way to ensure a comprehensive list of records is saved.
Yet the general attraction between a group like the OBRC - and self-appointed *experts* and *twitchers* have molded each other to the point where it may appear like an unwelcome sight to people who do not subscribe to that manner of birding (or as you said, intimidating). My goal has been to help reverse (or minimize) those feelings as best as we can – and this process is (hopefully) just the beginning. Probably the #1 response I have received from people after numerous queries is that the OBRC is “out of touch with the birding community”. So what better way to fix that, than to get information (like yours) from a wide audience of birders in Ontario and look for potential changes that fix some of the most common concerns?
At this point in time, I don’t really have any hard evidence that changes are being made – because it’s a slow process. The policy meeting is booked for this weekend, but there are 7 different members, with their own opinions, who can cast a vote on potential changes and majority rules. Things can also move slowly because the OBRC is 100% volunteer, and not everyone has a lot of time to devote to What I can say for now is that the agenda for the meeting is quite large, and there are numerous changes that could be pretty noteworthy if adopted. After the meeting, some sort of venue will be used to announce those changes (hopefully OFO news and ontbirds – and maybe even on the blogosphere!) Then it’ll take time to see the effects actually happen...
Your ending comments really resonated with me – that it’s time to lead – and hopefully we can do that by example. Having Mike Burrell (and other ebirders and reviewers) currently on the OBRC, it’s definitely an area where I think the OBRC can continue to improve – although it may interested to know that Mike has actually uploaded all of the OBRC database to ebird! It’s under the account “Published Ontario Bird Records” – and that we have a strong working relationship between the two groups. Without doing any research, I’m going to state that it may well be one of the strongest between any records group and ebird in the continent.
I hope I’ve done a decent job in covering your post.. . It was pretty long and I may have gone off track (or missed the point) on some things.. If so – let me know ! And I’ll do my best to update/answer/comment on anything provided... and many thanks again for spending the time to communicate your thoughts to myself and the OBRC